The Minot State University men's club hockey team faces a familiar foe when in-state rival Williston State College visits Maysa Arena at 7:30 tonight.
The Beavers (9-3) haven't played since a home-and-home series against the junior-college Tetons on Oct. 24 and 27. Both teams held serve at home, including a nine-goal outburst by the Beavers to hand WSC (3-1) its only loss of the season.
A nearly two-week layoff came at the perfect time for MSU, as injuries plagued the Beavers in the early part of the season.
"The rest has been huge," MSU coach Wade Regier said. "We have about four key members of our team that have been out, particularly with concussions. It's much needed, physically and mentally."
Freshman defenseman Bob Pond and freshman forward Brody Haygarth have been nursing concussions but will play tonight, according to Regier. Haygarth has appeared in only four games this season, but has two goals and an assist. Pond has played in five games.
While the Beavers come into the game well-rested, the Tetons are coming off a weekend sweep at South Dakota State University in which they outscored the Jackrabbits 15-2.
Sophomore forward Brandon Passley scored a team-record five goals for the Tetons in an 11-2 victory Saturday.
The Tetons shocked the fifth-ranked Beavers in their first of five regular-season games, posting a 2-1 victory at the Agri-Sports Complex. Three days later, MSU returned the favor, blasting WSC 9-0 at Maysa Arena.
"It's one of those things that the loss was more of a thing that kept us humble," Regier said. "We can't just go to any rink and play average hockey. We have to play the full 60 minutes. The loss is more than enough motivation."
Regier said the key to getting off to a fast start is establishing MSU's physicality. The Beavers fell behind 2-0 and were forced to play catch up in the 2-1 loss, but jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the opening 12 minutes in the shutout victory.
"In the game we lost, we underestimated them," MSU senior forward Brett Fiddler said. "We had success against them last year and they came back this year and bit us in the butt. In the game we won, we came out more prepared."
The Beavers have a distinct size and experience advantage over the their junior-college rival.
"Finishing our checks will be important," Regier said. "If we are physical early in the game, it will pay dividends later on."
MSU junior goaltender Wyatt Waselenchuk will get the start in net. In seven games played, Waselenchuk is 4-2 with a 2.14 goals against average and a .92 save percentage. He was in net for the Beavers' first game against the Tetons, finishing with 27 saves.
Regier said his team is ready to go and looking forward to returning to the ice.
"We'll be fired up," he said. "Our practices have been outstanding. Our team has that attitude that they want to get better. The intensity has been outstanding."